Like fine wine and sports teams, choosing the best amusement park is a matter of personal taste. While any list of the best will prove controversial, five parks have emerged that top most lists of “must see” amusement parks: Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.

Yes, that’s a lot of Disney. That’s the reason they are Disney – they do amusement parks really, really well. Depending on the mood you are in, one of the above will provide the perfect balance of rides, shows, food, entertainment, exotic animals, shops or whatever else you want from your amusement park experience.

A Note on Amusement Parks

Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder when it comes to amusement parks. It’s important to note that many not in the Top 5 standout for other reasons. For example:

  • Some parks are best known for roller coasters. That includes Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., which features Montu, Cheetah Hunt and the soon-to-be-opened Tigris. Another is Cedar Point in Ohio, which features The Millennium Force and Steel Vengeance
  • Discovery Cove water park in Orlando features dolphin encounters and all the slides you can handle
  • Wisconsin Dells is the “Water Park Capital of the World” and the Noah’s Ark Waterpark shows how they earned that title
  • Some parks are known for the best thrill rides, which includes the X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, the Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Colorado or any number of roller coasters (like Hang Time at Knott’s Berry Farm in California)

The Top 5 U.S. Amusement Parks

With all that said, here’s more information on the Top 5 amusement parks in the United States.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida

Why: Even people who don’t like Disney can’t argue against the Magic Kingdom. It’s the classic and still best park for those who want to experience what Disney has to offer, especially if you have kids.

Highlights: Cinderella’s Castle (one of the most famous photo ops in the world);  Space Mountain roller coaster; the Haunted Mansion; Pirates of the Caribbean; the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; Splash Mountain; and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The park is still split into “lands” that include Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

Disneyland Park

Location: Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California

Why: Opened in 1955, this is the only park that was designed, built and opened under the supervision of Walt Disney himself, which is reason enough for Disney fans.

Highlights: This park also is split into “lands”: Main Street U.S.A.; Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Frontierland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrowland. The “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” area is expected to open in mid-2019.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida

Why: There’s really no other place like this one. It’s like visiting a major zoo that also has awesome rides.

Highlights: The man-made Tree of Life; Avatar Flight of Passage 3D flying simulator; the Kilimanjaro Safari ride which takes passengers out into the park to see many different animals; Expedition Everest roller coaster (where you meet a Yeti and go backward – it’s one of the most expensive roller coasters in the world); and a jaw-dropping number of animals.


Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida

Why: Once the acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, Epcot now is where adults go for amusement park fun that is more geared toward the imagination and learning but still no less awe-inspiring.

Highlights: You can eat, drink and in some cases enjoy a ride in areas of the park themed after different countries (Mexico, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, Morocco, Japan, Great Britain, Canada); Spaceship Earth; the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival held every fall.

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Location: Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida

Why: This place almost out-Disneys Disney. The Islands of Adventure feature great rides and two places every fan should visit: “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” and Marvel Super Hero Island.

Highlights: Everything in the Harry Potter area will thrill vans, from Ollivanders Wand Shop to The Three Broomsticks Inn in Hogsmeade Village. There’s also the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, Flight of the Hippogriff junior roller coaster, the Incredible Hulk Coaster,  Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Skull Island: Reign of Kong and the Jurassic Park River Adventure.

Which one should you visit? It all depends on your mood and what you are interested in seeing and doing on your next vacation. Thankfully, no matter what you want to do, there is a fantastic list of options.